Inside AAHA: November 2021

AAHA vice president Margot Vahrenwald, DVM, CVJ, talks about lasers and their extreme usefulness in the veterinary setting. A list of the winners of AAHA Day social media contest; Dear AAHA answers a question about internal air quality; 2021 AAHA-Accredited Practice of the Year Award Finalists are congratulated; and the 2021 AAHA Working, Assistance, and Therapy Dog Guidelines are announced.

View from the Board

Laser Focus

Having recently spent my first nights ever in a human hospital, I have now seen in use many new-to-me high-tech tools meant to make work more efficient for the medical team and more comfortable for the patients. Some of these technologies have already or will eventually migrate to veterinary medicine, while others are not appropriate to us in terms of cost or application to animal patients.

But new isn’t always better, and many veterinarians already have an older technology in our practice that may be underutilized—medical lasers.

Albert Einstein first introduced the concept of laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) in 1917. The first working laser was developed by Theodore Maiman at the Hughes Laboratory in 1960. From there, many scientists have explored types of lasers and their potential uses. Ultimately, different types of medical lasers were developed, and a broad spectrum of applications have been studied to uncover many therapeutic benefits. And new research is expanding how laser technology can be used in medicine and beyond. In fact, it is already at our fingertips, as you can even get a personal low-level laser therapy device from your local drugstore to reduce wrinkles.

Growing up as a child in the scientific community that is the home of Los Alamos National Laboratory, I remember seeing the terrifyingly powerful precursors to industrial hot lasers being applied on the rare family day when we were allowed a peek inside our parents’ workplace. It seemed like something Dr. Evil from Austin Powers would have loved to get his hands on! I also remember small lasers being developed to activate molecules and precisely cut metals into tiny parts to measure molecular activity or create the machines that measured these reactions.

We have been using laser therapy in our veterinary practice since opening ten years ago. Our most used protocols are for postoperative pain, arthritis, stomatitis, lick granulomas, and wound care. But I know that there is more that we could be doing.

I encourage you to explore laser therapy in more depth. This beneficial treatment modality can be used to build a bigger profit center along with our usual array of other useful tools and knowledge.

And, as always, wishing success and health to you and your team members as we continue to juggle the never-ending stressors of our changed work and life environments.

Adam Hechko
Margot K. Vahrenwald, DVM, CVJ, is vice president of the AAHA Board of Directors. She is owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. 

Expressing Gratitude After a Tough Year

AAHA-Accredited Hospital Day gives practices a reason to celebrate

Always held on July 22, AAHA-Accredited Hospital Day is celebrated each year to show appreciation for veterinary teams who uphold the highest standards in medicine, patient care, and practice management. AAHA awarded four cash prizes to hospitals who won a Facebook group contest by posting on social media about their #AAHADay festivities. AAHA-accredited members get details in the private AAHA-accredited Members Facebook group and download free social media posts at

AAHA Day winners

1st Prize

North Shore Animal Hospital,
Racine, Wisconsin

2nd Prize

Arizona Animal Wellness Center,
Gilbert, Arizona

North_Shore-tshirt_and_goodies.jpg Arizona-cat-selfie_frame.jpg


3rd Prize (tie)

Panorama Village Animal Hospital,
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada


3rd Prize (tie)

Community Animal Clinic Inc.,
Wytheville, Virginia

Panorama-team.jpg Community_Animal_Clinic_outdoor.jpg



Dear AAHA,

Does AAHA have any resources on internal air quality?

—Air Quality in Denver

Dear Air Quality,

Great question. If your clinic is in an especially high-dust region or the environment easily collects fur, it may be best to have HVAC serviced quarterly, and to change furnace filters monthly. You could also explore boosting air exchange rates and increasing pressurization and ventilation.

OSHA does not have any specific air quality (IAQ) standards, but it does have guidelines available at There is a helpful chapter on HVAC in the Practical Guide to Veterinary Hospital Design, available in the AAHA Store ( Your attorney may be able to help with language to clarify employee rights and responsibilities with regard to expectations of safe working conditions or with any state regulations regarding exposure to allergens.

—AAHA’s Member Experience Team

Have a question you’d like AAHA to answer? Email us at


NEW! AAHA Releases Guidelines for “Working” Dogs

Working, assistance, and therapy dogs . . .

  • Serve on the frontlines.
  • Risk their lives to keep communities safe.
  • Provide emotional support and physical assistance to those in need.

Beyond Police Dogs

Protection and Detection Dogs

  • Military
  • Bomb detection
  • Drug detection
  • Plant detection

Assistance Dogs

  • Sight- and hearing-assistance
  • Seizure and allergy detection

Therapy Dogs

  • Goal-directed therapy
  • “Happiness-delivery” pets


The 2021 AAHA Working, Assistance, and Therapy Dog Guidelines help the entire veterinary team speak the language of the working dog community. They include:

  • How to understand variations in preventive healthcare, behavior, handling, and communication with working dogs and their handlers
  • Tools to build confidence when handling these high-value contributors to our communities

Learn more about the 2021 AAHA Working, Assistance, and Therapy Dog Guidelines at and look for them in the November/December JAAHA, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, as well as an executive summary in December Trends.

The 2021 AAHA Working, Assistance, and Therapy Dog Guidelines are supported by generous educational grants from the AAHA Foundation, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, Merck Animal Health, and Zoetis Petcare.

Congratulations, 2021 AAHA-Accredited Practice of the Year Award Finalists!

During the Connexity conference in September, AAHA presented its 2021 “AAHA-Accredited Practice of the Year” award to ZimmVet in Zimmerman, Minnesota ( See their story in an upcoming issue of Trends. Learn more and apply at

Huge kudos and congratulations to the three runners-up:

Arizona Animal Wellness Center

Gilbert, Arizona


In their own words:

“It’s vital that everyone in our organization understands and can share with our community why we are AAHA accredited and why our patients deserve only the best. Our team shares their passion for providing the AAHA standards when outlining a treatment plan, discussing the importance of safety in anesthesia and surgery, introducing preventive plans and vaccinations for all life stages, and providing oral healthcare recommendations. Our team speaks about the importance of providing the best care we can to every pet we care for because we believe in what we do and why we do it.”



Moore Animal Hospital

Fort Collins, Colorado


In their own words:

“Being an AAHA-accredited hospital for 28 years, we take being the very best to heart. When our employees are first hired, we discuss what it means to be AAHA accredited and why it is important to our clients. All team members are involved in preparing for evaluation and improving as the newer standards are released.”






Travelers Rest Animal Hospital

Travelers Rest, South Carolina


In their own words:

“By aligning with the vision of AAHA and voluntarily participating in comprehensive evaluations to improve our standards of care, we can help pet owners have a joyful life with their companion animals.”








AAHA Meetings and Events

AAHA is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and we will continue to follow recommended public health guidelines leading up to all scheduled AAHA events.


Beyond Medicine Workshop

November 13, December 4, January 22




Register for a learning program and learn more about AAHA’s upcoming events.


Photo credits: Photos courtesy of North Shore Animal Hospital, Arizona Animal Wellness Center, Panorama Village Animal Hospital, and Community Animal Clinic Inc., Photos courtesy of AAWC, Moore Animal Hospital, Travelers Rest Animal Hospital, monkeybusinessimages/, Thinkstock/Stockbyte, and Stocktrek Images via Getty Images, Photographer/collection via Getty Images



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